Hold on to your butts…

Posted by Steve

It’s an exciting time to be a Brewer fan, but clearly it has nothing to do with the results on the field. I’ve been working second shift recently, so I listen to a bit of the game on my lunch. I’ve literally heard two innings of Brewer games the last two days, and in those two innings, they’ve given up a combined 14 runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Impressive.

No, my excitement actually stems from the looming trade deadline. We’re just about a week away, and the Brewers are front and center in trade rumors. It’s very exciting to be a buyer–the CC Sabathia trade remains the most exciting trade in my lifetime–but if you can’t be a buyer, being a seller is the next best place to be. The worst spot is the position the Brewers were in last year. They were around .500, and the writing was on the wall that they were probably going to miss the playoffs. Still, they weren’t far enough out to become sellers, and they didn’t have many tradable pieces, so they were stuck in no-man’s land.

There is a formula for being a big seller at the trade deadline. You don’t need to necessarily fit all three, but it helps.

1. You are clearly out of the playoff race.

2. You have premiere players.

3. Those players have short-term contracts–generally two years or less remaining before becoming free agents.

The Brewers have that formula. They’re certainly out of the playoff race. They have premiere players on short-term contracts (Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks). Therefore, they are in prime position to improve the talent for the future.

The Brewers don’t appear to be interested in trading Rickie Weeks. He’s a good candidate for an extension, and I expect them to make an offer in the off-season. Fielder and Hart, on the other hand, are garnering plenty of interest.

A few days ago I wrote that I didn’t expect Prince Fielder to be traded this season. I’m now amending that prediction: Fielder will either be a Brewer or a member of the Chicago White Sox after the trade deadline.

In the last day or two, reports have surfaced that the White Sox are pushing to acquire Fielder. I originally said the Brewers wouldn’t trade Fielder because they wouldn’t get good value during the season. Thing is, I didn’t expect the White Sox to be interested.

Things change if Kenny Williams is involved. He is an extremely aggressive (and largely successful) general manager who is known for his bold moves. If he is willing to acquire an injured Jake Peavy at the trade deadline when his team isn’t even in first place, as he did last season, there’s a good chance he’ll pony up for Prince Fielder.

So who would the Brewers get?

Based on reports, the one player that would certainly be in the deal is 23-year-old White Sox starting pitcher Daniel Hudson. Hudson is the best, most advanced pitching prospect the Sox have, and obviously, the Brewers are looking for pitching. Tom Haudricourt noted that the Brewers had a couple scouts watching Hudson’s last start. Interestingly, Ken Rosenthal reported Wednesday that the Brewers only view Hudson as a #3 or 4 starting pitcher, which obviously is not the type of return you’d be looking for for Prince.

However, I’m wondering if that isn’t a bit of posturing from the Brewers. Hudson’s numbers are quite impressive.Β Let’s compare his career minor league numbers to a mystery pitcher.

Mystery Man: 396 innings, 2.59 ERA, 10.4 strikeouts/9 innings, 3.2 strikeouts/walk, 0.4 home runs/9 innings

Daniel Hudson: 310 innings, 2.90 ERA, 10.6 strikeouts/9 innings, 4.18 strikeouts/walk, 0.7 home runs/9 innings

It’s fair to say that Hudson at least holds his own compared to our Mystery Man.

So who is this pitcher Hudson is being compared to?

Those minor league numbers belong to none other than Yovani Gallardo.

Now, there is a reason teams employ scouts, and scouts don’t seem to think Hudson has quite the ceiling that Gallardo did. Hudson entered this season as Baseball America’s number 66 prospect, while Gallardo was as high as 16. Still, Hudson has the production that leads me to believe he’ll be a front-end starter. Certainly, he profiles as a better pitcher than anyone the Brewers have besides Yo.

Still, to move Fielder now, rather than in the off-season, the Brewers should want much more than just Hudson. If you’re at all familiar with the White Sox, your mind should immediately go to infielder Gordon Beckham.

Beckham was projected to be an absolute stud. He was the eighth overall pick in 2008, and he cruised through the minors. Entering 2009, he was Baseball America’s 20th best prospect. Scouts compared his game to Michael Young. The Sox called him up last season, and he put up a very solid .808 OPS at age 22. Entering this season, he was among the most untradable Β players in baseball.

Normally, I would just assume Beckham was untouchable, but like I said, you just never know with Kenny Williams. As often happens with young players, Beckham has struggled mightily this season (though he has torn it up this month–a sign that he could be turning things around). Beckham’s struggles may be enough to convince Williams that he could be traded if the right opportunity arose.

Sure enough, it seems the Brewers are thinking the same thing. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted today (sigh… just embrace it), “The White Sox are interested in Prince Fielder; it appears they probably can’t make a deal unless they offer Gordon Beckham in the package.”

This is what I like to see–some out of the box thinking from Melvin. Everyone just assumes the Brewers would ask for pitching for Fielder, and they should–if it’s available. But they shouldn’t trade for inferior talent just because it happens to be in the form of pitching. Like a player draft, they should always target the best player available. It doesn’t matter that the Brewers are presumably set at infield in the future between Alcides Escobar, Mat Gamel, Brett Lawrie and Rickie Weeks. Beckham is the best young talent the White Sox have, so that’s who the Crew should be targeting. Acquiring Beckham would simply give the Brewers an opportunity to trade an infielder for pitching. Rickie Weeks or Mat Gamel could bring back a pitcher. Heck, I wouldn’t even be surprised to see the Brewers flip Beckham. Plenty of teams with better pitching prospects than the White Sox would love to have him.

The Brewers are firmly in the drivers’ seat this deadline, with both Prince Fielder and Corey Hart. Particularly with Fielder, teams realize the Brewers would be perfectly content to keep him at least until the off-season. Doug Melvin shouldn’t be calling anyone; rather, he should be sitting back and letting others call him. He should be waiting for someone to wow him.

The only question left is whether Kenny Williams will do it.

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